Saugerties schools increase security

Saugerties High School (photo by Rick Holland)

The Saugerties school district unveiled its new security screening system last month. The Raptor Technologies scanner is now in use at all school buildings. Superintendent Kirk Reinhardt touted the Raptor system as an important piece of the district’s overall security and safety puzzle. The system requires visitors to present a photo ID, which will be inserted into the scanner and checked against the National Sex Offender Registry. A visitor’s badge is printed for use on school grounds. 

“Student and staff safety is paramount,” Reinhardt said. “The new system provides schools with a quick and efficient way to continually provide a safer environment for student and staff …. I love the Raptor thing, and I liked the fact that it actually prints out an ID.”

The notion that upstate towns are immune to crime is incorrect, the new superintendent said. When he came over from the Kingston City district ahead of the 2019-20 school year, he said he was pleased to see that Saugerties was already taking security seriously. 

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“Saugerties does a very good job of safety,” Reinhardt said. “I was very impressed when I went around in the spring. Um, you know, the doors are all locked. There’s security. There’s a monitor at the front door where they let everybody in. I’ve been very impressed with, with what’s being done.
“I know sometimes people think that if you’re not in the city, you don’t have to be as secure. But I’m glad Saugerties gets it. We need to know who’s in our buildings. I mean, safety is one of the most important things we do. If our students feel safe and secure, they can learn.”

The Raptor system only checks the sex-offender database and does not scan for traffic infractions or who might be undocumented. The system does have the capability to allow staff to enter concerns about potential threats into the system manually, notifying local police and school officials. 

Grant D. Morse principal Donald Dieckmann, who is on the districtwide committee for school safety, finds the Raptor system not a cumbersome device to those who wish to enter school buildings. “This new procedure does not slow down the entry process and takes about the same amount of time as the previous method, which was signing in on a sign-in sheet,” Dieckmann said. 

Raptor was funded through the state’s Smart Schools Bond Act, said school officials. 

Reinhardt said the ideal was for safety and security measures to become routine. Officials shouldn’t become complacent. 

“I think we’re all safer when it’s the norm to make sure you have an ID, make sure you sign in at a building, we know who you are,” he explained. “When those things become routine and regular, I think everybody’s safer ‘cause there’s an expectation that people know going into a building that safety is a priority. When you go to the airport, you know you’re going to get your bag searched. When you go to a school, understand that we need to know who you are and why you’re there. And we’re not mad. We’re not making any prejudgments. We just want our students to be safe.” 

Reinhardt was planning to attend a countywide school safety meeting this week. He’ll meet later this month with the districtwide committee as well. 

“I think those meetings are always good just for everybody to hear what’s going on in other buildings,” Reinhardt said. “And I’m excited to hear what’s going on in other districts. And then from there, if we have to make any adjustments, we then build those into professional development, or maybe we have to build something into the budget for the following year. That’s why we have to start the conversations that October, because the budget process starts right at the first of the year. And it’s going to be good for me to hear from everybody else in the district of what are their concerns, what are their stressors or what do they feel really good about? I’m looking forward to having the first meeting with the whole safety team.”

School safety isn’t just about security systems, though. School officials last month also ensured that kids who travel on buses in the district began engaging in the first of three planned emergency drills.
On September 12, students at Riccardi Elementary School learned about everything from using emergency doors and hatches to rear-exit evacuations. Students learned the location and use of first-aid kits, seat-belt cutters, exit windows and fire extinguishers. Students who walk to school also participate in the drills, as they sometimes ride buses to field trips or sports events. 

“Even when I was little, I remember we had a practice jumping out of the back of the bus,” recalled Reinhardt.

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